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Lean Accounting ’s Acceptance Makes Slow, Steady Headway in Academia


If the progress of lean accounting concepts being accepted and taught in academia could be represented on a financial statement, it would show a profit -- a small profit.

“I think it’s on the upswing but there’s still an incredibly small segment of accounting educators who are looking at lean accounting and talking about it,” said Gerald DeBusk, PhD, a past winner of the Excellence in Lean Accounting Award, sponsored annually by the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute.

The 2013 award will be presented at the annual Lean Accounting Summit, October 17-18, in Orlando.

In the past year, DeBusk has noticed “more and more people interested in lean management accounting and pushing it at the university level. I think we’re picking up steam; things are going in the right direction” although slowly.

Professional Progress 

That symbolic financial statement would look about the same if it represented the progress of lean concepts being accepted by accounting practitioners.  “You are seeing more and more articles about lean accounting in the professional publications. So that’s encouraging,” said DeBusk, who was a CFO in private industry. “Lean is here to stay and accounting will have to follow.”

DeBusk, an associate professor of accounting at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, won the award in 2009 when he was assistant professor of accounting, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. At Tennessee, DeBusk introduced lean concepts and examples into his managerial accounting course for MBA students. His students not only learned traditional accounting concepts about such issues as inventory valuation and absorption, but also the lean management approach, which many students needed at work because their companies were undergoing lean transformations.

Organizers of the annual summit conference said the lean accounting movement seeks a shift from traditional cost accounting practices to practices that accurately measure and motivate companies implementing lean management principles.

DeBusk said receiving the Excellence in Lean Accounting Award led to invitations from area industry and accounting organizations to give presentations on lean accounting concepts.

“It got a lot of attention,” he said.

What is Lean?

The terms lean, lean manufacturing, lean production, or lean management refer to a complete business system for organizing and managing product development, operations, suppliers, customer relations, and the overall enterprise that requires less capital, material, space, time, or human effort to produce products and services with fewer defects to precise customer desires, compared with traditional modern management.

Lean Enterprise Institute
Lean Enterprise Institute Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Cambridge, MA, makes things better through lean research, education, publishing, and conferences. Guided by a mission to advance lean thinking and practice around the world, LEI also supports other lean initiatives such as the Lean Global Network, the Lean Education Academic Network, and the Healthcare Value Network. Visit LEI at https://www.lean.org for more information.

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